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From Ternate to Sorong   650 miles   12 days
Maluku to Raja Ampat around the North coast of Halmahera

Top Indonesia sea voyages are meant as suggestions for the interesting courses that ships may follow through the archipelago. The routes are for planning purposes only and one must keep in mind that the itinerary and program may have to be modified as a result of unfavorable winds or other circumstances. This itinerary from Ternate to Sorong covers about 650 miles and we suggest a duration of about 12 days but that could of course be amended depending on your personal interests and preferences; of course this voyage could also be made in reverse.

On the first day you should leave Ternate early in the day and cross over towards neighboring Halmahera, which was formerly known as Jilolo or Gilolo and is the largest of the Maluku Islands. It is sparsely-populated and about half of the population is Muslim while the other half is Christian. After a few hours of sailing you reach the Bay of Jailolo, the site of an independent sultanate from the era before the Dutch East India Company colonized the entire archipelago. Do go ashore in the village of Jailolo and visit the old ‘Controllers House’ and a local community center with a display of historical treasures. The village is on the slope of a stunning volcanic complex of the same name with plenty of geothermal activity. It has lava flows on the eastern flank, a small caldera at the west and southwest of the mountain and hot springs along the northwest coast of the caldera. An independent small volcano with a perfect cone, Kailupa forms the southern flank of the peninsula. We suggest sailing out of the bay again around noon and during the rest of the day, the following night and most of the day that follows go north along the Western coast of Halmahera. You will see this is a wild and mountainous island, still largely covered with forests. You do pass some narrow beaches with small villages on the coastline but landing is difficult. In the early evening you pass the Bay of Loloda, another independent kingdom with a long history stretching from the 13th to the 19th century and you may be tempted to stop for the night, but a glance at the chart shows that the Bay is extremely shallow and it is advisable to reign in your exploratory urges.

On the third day you reach the Northern Loloda Islands. In the 13th Century when the sultans of Ternate and Tidore ruled the general area all the way to Papua these islands were know as “The Gate to the North”. The Sailing Directions of the British Admiralty, covering the harbors, coasts, and waters of the world, state: …”Vessels call at these islands for ebony. They anchor in the most convenient place for picking up their cargo….” There actually is a good anchorage in a small bay at the village of Kampung Dama on the South side of Pulau Doi. Use your tender to explore the small inlet and look for the fabled waterfall that, according to local legend, spills rejuvenating water. The reef that fringes the Western shore of the bay is a good spot for snorkeling and we suggest you spend the night at anchor.

On the fourth day, you should get underway at sunrise and then round the northernmost cape of Halmahera on the way to Morotai Island. Drop anchor in the course of the morning at Dodola Island. Dodola is surrounded by extensive white sand beaches that connect the neighboring islands of Dodola Besar and Dodola Kecil. The beautiful nature and the clear waters make this a prime spot for swimming and snorkeling. Afterwards we suggest you move to Daruba harbour on Morotai. During World War II, Halmahera was the site of a Japanese military base at Kao Bay and Morotai is famous for the role it played at the end of the Pacific War. On September 15 1944 Allied forces landed on Morotai occupied by the Japanese to create a bridgehead for attacking the Philippines. When you go ashore you are likely to find some scattered remnants of these events, but the contrast with the current peaceful scenery of white sandy beaches and a rippling turquoise sea could not be any greater. 

On the fifth day do sail back to the ‘mainland’ and stop at Tobelo, the capital of the regency of North Halmahera. It has a population of approximately 15,000. The town is predominantly Christian and a Protestant Church has existed in Tobelo since 1924. Afterwards you should proceed toward Kau Bay in between the northern and northeastern ‘legs’ of Halmahera. Once you reach Waisile Bay on the eastern side of Kau, drop anchor at the small port of Subaim on the south coast.

We suggest you go ashore early in the morning of the sixth day to trek into the Aketajawe-Lolobota National Park, a truly exceptional wildlife sanctuary. The vegetation of this national park consists mostly of lowland and mountain rainforest and its forest vegetation is characterized by an extremely high level of biodiversity. It is considered by Birdlife International to be vital for the survival of at least 23 endemic bird species. Try to find a guide from the indigenous Tugutil tribe whose knowledge of the local environment is unsurpassed. If you are lucky you may spot Wallace’s Standard Wing Bird of Paradise and the Giant Pitta, described by Wallace as one of the most beautiful birds of the East. By sunset you should sail out of the bay again to go north. During the evening you may veer off toward the NE and follow the coast until you can turn south again at Cape Lelai.

On the morning of the seventh day you have the opportunity to step ashore a last time on Halmahera near the village of Watam just South of Cape Wayamli. You are now in Buli Bay, an area full of coconut plantations. The villages on this Bay are among the most isolated communities in Indonesia because they have access by sea only and there are only very few roads here. When the sun sets the moment has come to start an overnight passage crossing from Halmahera to the Raja Ampat.

The Raja Ampat archipelago consists of some 600 Islands and islets that straddle the equator in the area off the “Birds Head”, the extreme north-western tip of the province of Papua.  The name Raja Ampat literally means ‘the Four Kings’ and the name dates back to the time that the islands were ruled from the North Moluccan sultanates of Ternate and Tidore.  (In those days each of the four larger islands in the group, Waigeo, Salawati, Batanta and Misool used to have an independent ‘raja’…) Most of the islands have rugged and steep coastlines and are covered with virgin rain forest.  The larger islands are lightly populated, but most others are uninhabited by humans. 

On the eighth day you make your landfall on what seems an extra-terrestrial world.
What looks like an armada of flying saucers around you is in reality a great number of tiny islets that over time have been eroded by the relentless motion of the tides. You have arrived in the Wayag islands and you will have an unforgettable day by taking to your tender around in order to explore the beaches of the area. This is also an exceptionally wonderful spot to spend the night at anchor.

On the ninth day you should go on a southeasterly course towards the largest of the Raja Islands, Waigeo.  In the sailing directions you read:  “Large schools of porpoises are sometimes seen in this passage and may be mistaken for dry rocks when motionless”…  Waigeo lies NW of the W end of Irian Jaya and consists almost entirely of hills and mountains which rise steeply from the sea. The island is 110 km long from east to west and 48 km wide from north to south. The highest elevations are on the N side of the island. Steer for Buffalo Horn (0°05'S.130°45'E.), a 958 meter high mountain peak about midway along the north coast and reported to be a good landmark. When you reach latitude zero go on a course due east and follow the equator until you reach Fofak Bay. If the conditions are good you should enter this bay and look for a safe anchorage. In the sailing directions they mention a waterfall and a village, but if you find it is not the right time we suggest you proceed to Kabarei Bay instead.

On the tenth day you should sail around the East coast of Waigeo, and point the bow west again to enter Dampier Strait. You may arrive in time to spend most of the night at anchor in front of the island of Gam. The next morning do go ashore on this island that reputedly is home to the red bird of paradise.

On the eleventh day do  proceed from Gam to the island of Wai. Here you will be able to enjoy your last white-sand beaches and astonishing reefs. Spend the night at anchor.

On the twelfth day there only remains a short crossing to Sorong. Here you say farewell to the crew of the vessel. Top Indonesia will arrange your transfer to the airport and assist you with all further travel arrangements.
< back to Sea Routes
Raja Ampat - Wayag Island
Halmahera - Festival Teluk Jailolo
Dodola Island
Standardwing Birel of Paradise
Simple Life of Tobelo
Suku Togutil
Morotai Island Wreck
Raja Ampat - Waideo Island
Raja Ampat - Diving Gam Island